*** COMBATING RACISM
Statement to the 46th session of the United Nations Commission On Human Rights
Item 17 (b) of the provisional agenda: Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Second Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination
25 January 1990
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The Baha'i International Community commends the activities of the United Nations during the period 1985-1989 with respect to the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Second Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination, and expresses its earnest support for the activities planned for the biennium 1990-1991. It notes in particular the outstanding study on the achievements made and obstacles encountered during the Decades to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1989/8 and Add.1 and 2) submitted by the Special Rapporteur of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, Mr. Asbjorn Eide.
Racism is a pernicious and persistent evil. It represents a major blight on human progress. The Baha'i International Community believes that this invidious practice can be effectively countered only through an unshakable and universal consciousness of the fundamental oneness of humankind, implemented by appropriate and universally upheld legal measures. Accordingly, it offers the following observations to the Commission with respect to practical measures which can further the objectives of the Programme of Action.
First, it addresses the issue of fostering a universal consciousness of the oneness of the human race. In the Baha'i view, the oneness of humankind represents an organic interdependence within a corporeal social entity. This implies that the welfare of the constituent components of this body is inextricably interwoven with that of the whole. Moreover, the essential oneness of the human race is not restricted to the physical dimension; it extends to the social and spiritual aspects of human life. Through the nurturing and unfolding of man's transcendental potential, cultural diversity can begin to be viewed as the expression of this universal and basic truth. Only then can perceived racial barriers be overcome. In this regard, education is of paramount importance.
The Special Rapporteur states that the theories of racial superiority predicated on biological grounds have been "utterly discredited," for "they fly in the face of scientific evidence" (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1989/8 and Add.1 and 2, para. 437). However, he acknowledges that, despite the significant contribution of biologists to the elimination of "the fallacious mythology of racial superiority," social scientists should be encouraged "to explore the hidden and subconscious elements of racism and ways in which it manifests itself" (ibid., para. 445, recommendation 5). The battle against pseudo-scientific racism having been largely won, emphasis on this element of racism is now imperative if greater recognition of the social and spiritual dimensions of humanity's fundamental unity is to occur. The Baha'i International Community fully concurs with the recommendation of the report that this task be undertaken by UNESCO in co-operation with the Centre for Human Rights and that attempts to introduce these insights into the world's education system at all levels be intensified (ibid.). Moreover, efforts should be made to expedite the preparation by UNESCO of teaching materials and aids for the promotion of human rights education, with particular emphasis on the primary and secondary levels of education.
In addition to such measures, a more far-reaching effort may be necessary in order to provide the proper pedagogical tools for combating racism. The Baha'i International Community therefore recommends, as indeed it has in the past, the development and implementation in individual countries of a universal, yet culturally adaptable, curriculum for teaching the organic oneness of humankind. Once again, UNESCO may be the appropriate agency to facilitate the development of such a curriculum. In this connection, the Baha'i International Community welcomes the decision of the General Assembly to convene, during the biennium 1992-1993, a round table of experts to discuss the preparation of teaching materials to combat racism and racial discrimination.
With respect to the adoption of appropriate legal measures aimed at the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, the Baha'i International Community commends the many significant activities of the United Nations and its agencies in the past year. In particular, the new ILO Convention 169 on Tribal and Indigenous Peoples in Independent Countries, the efforts of the working group of the Sub-Commission in the preparation of the declaration of the rights of indigenous peoples and the convention on migrant workers and their families, now under negotiation, have all contributed to filling lacunae in international law with respect to the foregoing social groups. In this respect, as suggested in the report, an examination by the United Nations of the legal problems confronting minorities would also contribute significantly in the resolution of this highly controversial issue. Other important legal activities include Mr. Eide's recommendation that "the Centre for Human Rights should accelerate its efforts to develop model laws for the prevention of racial discrimination" (ibid., recommendation 39). Such laws would provide States with voluntary standards with which national legislation could be harmonized.
Such a process at the national level, supplemented by a more widespread ratification of international instruments, most notably the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, would provide a comprehensive legal regime for combating racism and racial discrimination. It should also be noted that declarations in accordance with article 14 of the foregoing Convention, on communications from individuals and groups of individuals, would also serve to enhance significantly the development and efficacy of the international human rights instruments and engender greater international co-operation.
The Baha'i International Community has participated extensively in activities aimed at the eradication of racism and racial discrimination. It welcomed the proclamation of the Second Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination through, inter alia, the distribution of the text of the Programme of Action for the Second Decade to all its 148 national affiliates. In the intervening years, many of these communities have sponsored public meetings, conferences, summer schools, newspaper articles, radio programmes and exhibits in support of the objectives of the Second Decade. Moreover, drawing on the creative spirit of grassroots participation, Baha'is in a number of countries have established race unity committees, with multiracial membership, which have developed programmes to combat racial prejudice and to create bonds of mutual respect among peoples of different races in their local communities. These committees have attempted to assist Baha'is to free themselves of their own racial prejudices and, beyond that, to contribute to the elimination of racial prejudice in society at large through extensive collaboration with leaders in government, education and religion. Despite the inevitable obstacles encountered by the Baha'is in their ongoing process of eradicating racism from their communities, their experience has been a positive and unifying one.
The Baha'i International Community holds firmly that the constructive forces present at this stage in the social evolution of humankind are manifesting themselves with increasing intensity. It is its earnest hope that the international community will seize upon these forces and take advantage of the opportunities afforded by them: thus to realize, in the second half of the Second Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination, unprecedented victories in the face of new challenges.
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UN Document #E/CN.4/1990/NGO/7